My “Safe” Drugs Landed Me in the ICU

Some were just too scary: heroinmeth, LSD and ecstasy, to name a few. Pills though—prescription pills, didn’t fall into the “scary” category in my alcohol-pickled mind.

Made in pharmaceutical plants and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, stuff like narcotic capsules, tablets and liquids seemed like a pretty safe bet. I had discovered that alcohol alone wasn’t the answer, although it had seemed so for years.

I had major stomach and circulation issues, I vomited all the time and my ankles were grotesquely swollen—alcohol wouldn’t cut it anymore.

Prescription Pills Were the Answer

The medicine cabinet above the bathroom sink in my sister’s home seemed to hold a myriad of choices. Tranquilizers, pain meds, sleep aids and diet pills were all there for the taking. I wasn’t quite sure which one was which, or which one did what.

Then I got smart and Googled. I found my answers.

I choose a round, blue Valium and after a brief sense of calm, I slept.

Then I tried a round of white Tylenol #4. That feeling of relaxation was different and I found myself able to get on with my day.

Opiates soon became my pills of choice. They seemed to alleviate my gross anxiety and elevate me from my black hole of depression.

I Couldn’t Face My Fears

I slipped the bottle into my suitcase just before heading home.

Oh, we had talked, my sister and I. Obvious to any adult, I was an alcoholic. It didn’t seem that I could or would allow myself to face all my fears. She was, “concerned.”

That bottle of pills was empty in short order, and I recall thanking God as I found codeine cough medicine and codeine sulfate prescriptions.

Then there was Vicodin and Percocet and others. And, I continued to drink.

I had finally found my magic potion and was not surprised that almost every home I visited had that recipe in one form or another.

“You Overdosed,” the Nurse Said

When I came to, I knew immediately, although foggy, that I was in the hospital.

Straps of some kind held my arms and legs securely to the bed. I screamed into my oxygen mask and battled with the restraints. “Easy, Hon,” the nurse said. “You’re in the hospital, ICU actually. You overdosed.”

I had done damage. I had seized, had cardiac arrhythmias, and my liver function was poor.

Psychologically, the damage was equally devastating. My panic increased and my depression knew the lowest low. I wanted to die. Transferred to the psychiatric unit, I lamented, “Dear Lord, help me. I’m so lost, so frightened, so insane.”

He Gave Me His Hand

And, He gave me his hand.

I was led to Alcoholics Anonymous, and then to Narcotics Anonymous. He gave me his hand. He led me to an awesome therapist.

Never easy, I fought . . . I fought for life, for a sound mind. I fought, knowing that I had only to get through, ONE DAY AT A TIME.

And time did pass—in fact, it still does, one day at a time.

Author: Katie Hiener is a writer, recovering addict, and mother based in Connecticut.